Along with the artists of Ingmar Bergman, Carl Dreyer, Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu; the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky was an artist that sculpted and created his own universe for himself and himself only. Tarkovsky is one of the most difficult directors to grasp, as he had a profound undercurrent of spirituality and consciously embodied the idea of a Great Filmmaker, making works that were uncompromisingly serious and ambitious, with no regard whatever for the audience, what the audience wanted or box office records. A lot of people proclaim Tarkovsky's films are too slow, too long and need extensive trimming in several scenes. But I believe his films which include long philosophical and existential dialogue and extensive and sinuous tracking shots, have audiences slow down, relax, and enter his world of complete meditation. When he allows a sequence to continue for what seems like an unreasonable length, he gives audiences a choice: We can either be restless and bored or we can give our mind a time to consolidate what we've just seen, what we've just heard, and what we've just witnessed. It gives us a chance to process our thoughts and feelings in terms of our own reflections. Andrei Tarkovsky is considered the greatest director to have emerged from Russia since the great director Sergei Eisenstein, and the reason that his films are not as widely known is because they are the most abstract, exhaustive, metaphysical, and intellectual, films that stem closest to the literary definition of art. All throughout his film-making career, Tarkovsky, having to deal with the constant struggles with the conservative Soviet regime, could make only a handful of movies, each of which can serve to be a live thesis on spiritualism and theology, all the while mastering the use of time and space, expressing what many would think would be inexpressible in the cinema.
Opening shot is of water and drifting reefs under the water. The camera pans through the grass and up to our protagonist Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) who is reflecting on his life by admiring the beautiful lake near his childhood home where his elderly father and aunt live. The shot shows Kris standing comfortably as a horse gallops through his father's property as Kris kneels down to wash his hands in the lake.
He then notices Henri Berton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky), a former space pilot and old friend of his father's arriving to his father's home along with his son to speak with him. Kris's father shouts out down to Kris, "Kris, come here. You're just in time." Berton says to Kris's father, "Does he understand that everything depends on his first report from the station? Everything we've received so far has been confusing or incomprehensible. If he confirms that the work can't continue for some reason, the station can be taken out of Solaris' orbit. You promised to talk to him. I brought the film. That's what I came here for."
Berton tells his old friend how pleasant it is at his home and Kris's father says, "This house reminds me of my grandfather's house. So we decided to build one just like that." Suddenly rain begins to pour as Kris sits outside comfortably in the rain looking at a half eaten pear and a coffee cup being drenched on the porch. The father gives Kris the video his friend Berton arrived with and they all sit down to watch it. The video contains film footage of Berton's own testimony before a space committee on what he experienced on the ocean surface of Solaris while searching for two lost scientists.
One of the committee members introduces Berton: "On the 21st day of our expedition, radiobiologist Vishyakov and physicist Fekhner went on an exploratory flight over the Solaris Ocean in a hydroplane. When they failed to return after 16 hours, we declared an emergency. The fog was thick and we were forced to call the search off. All of the rescue craft returned to the station except for the helicopter operated by Berton. Berton returned an hour after dark. Once out of the helicopter, he ran to his quarters. He was in a state of shock. This was highly unusual for a man with 11 years of experience flying in space. He recovered in a couple days, but he never would leave the station and refused to approach the window overlooking the Ocean. Later he wrote to us from the clinic."
The Board then switches over to a much younger Berton as he reads his letter to the committee: "When I first descended below 300 meters, I had trouble maintaining altitude. All of my attention went towards operating the ship. I did not look out of the cabin. As a result, I wound up in a fog. It seemed to be colloidal and viscous. Because of the fog's resistance I began to lose altitude. After half an hour I came out into a large, open space. It was almost round, a few hundred meters across. At that point, I noticed a change in the Ocean. The waves disappeared. The surface became almost transparent with clouded patches. Yellow sludge gathered beneath it. It rose up in thin strips and sparkled like glass. Then it began to seethe, boil and harden. It looked like molasses. This sludge or slim gathered into large lumps and slowly formed different shapes. When I looked down again, I saw a sort of garden. I saw shrubs, hedges, acacia trees, little paths. Everything was made of the same substance. Then everything began to crack and break. Yellow sludge poured out of the fissures. Everything began to boil even harder, and foam appeared."
When the committee views the surveillance recording the members doesn't understand what Berton is describing because they see nothing but a bunch of clouds; but Berton swears of seeing what he described with his own eyes. The committee leader believes this all could be a result of Solaris' diamagnetic current that is acting on Berton's consciousness. He says, "We now know the current is not only a gigantic cerebral system, but a substance capable of thought processes."
Berton then describes to the committee a figure that looked like Fechner's space suit, and that the shape was of a person that rose suddenly as it were swimming or treading the waves. The committee asked if Berton had seen the face of this person and Berton says that it was the face of a child. "When I flew closer to him, I noticed something awful. I couldn't make it out at first. Then I saw that he was unusually large. Gigantic. He was about four meters tall. He had blue eyes and dark hair. He was naked, absolutely naked like a newborn. He was wet, or rather, slippery. His skin was shiny. He rose and fell like the waves, but he was moving by himself. It was disgusting..."
The committee comes to a conclusion that Berton's statements appear to be a result of a hallucinatory complex brought on by the planet's atmosphere, as well as symptoms of depression exacerbated by inflammation of the associative zone of the cerebral cortex. "I saw it all with my own eyes," demands Berton as the committee believes Berton's report barely corresponds with reality. The committee feels morally obligated to continue the mission even after hearing Berton's outrageous claims realizing that Solarists is an important study of human knowledge.
Berton shuts off the video and says to Kris and Kris's father, "Nowadays it's considered good manners to laugh when Berton's report is mentioned." Berton asks Kris's father if he can speak with Kris alone outside by the swing. Kris alone with his father believes Burton to be a ridiculous man as he looks at a portrait of his dead mother. His father tells Kris to give Berton more respect. Kris's father is saddened that his son will be departing for this sudden space mission because the two of them rarely talk anymore.
Kris meets up outside at the swing with Berton and says, "You understand, I think Solaristics has reached an impasse as a result of irresponsible daydreaming. I'm interested in the truth. I don't have the right to make decisions based on impulses of the heart. I'm not a poet. I have a concrete goal: Either stop the research and remove the station from orbit thereby legitimizing the Solaristics crisis, or take extreme measures. Perhaps bombard the Ocean with heavy radiation."
Berton doesn't agree with that and tells Kris, "You want to destroy that which we are presently incapable of understanding? Forgive me, but I am not an advocate of knowledge at any price. Knowledge is only valid when it's based on morality." Kris says that man is the one who renders science as moral or immoral bringing up Hiroshima. Kris says, "You yourself can't be sure that what you saw wasn't just hallucinations." Not being able to convince Kris on what he saw Berton angrily decides his presence is no longer needed and decides to leave saying to the father, "he's an accountant, not a scientist. You were right."
Kris's father asks Kris why he had to offend Berton and yells at his son saying, "It's dangerous to send people like you into space. Everything there is too fragile. Yes, fragile! The Earth has somehow become adjusted to people like you, although at what sacrifice."
That evening Anna and Kris's father are watching a program of Solaris. The program says that there are few believers left and on the large station of Solaris it is built to house 85 people and there is now a crew of three which include astrobiologist Sartorius, cyberneticist Snaut, and physiologist Gibarian. Berton calls in from the city and appears on the screen to talk to Kris's father. He informs him how he didn't talk to Kris about what was most important about the mission which was about a Messenger who voiced a different opinion at the meeting. That Messenger became very interested in Fechner who died in the Solaris Ocean, and it turned out Fechner was an orphaned son.
Berton says how he and the Messenger paid a visit to Fechner's widow and saw the boy with his own eyes which was identical to the one he saw on Solaris. Kris overhears Berton's message standing outside of the room as he hears Berton say, "he shouldn't think about this too much before liftoff, but he should keep it in mind..."
The next scene is a beautiful hypnotic 7 minute shot of a black and white freeway with a first person view of a car speeding on the smooth road passing several buildings and going over and under several tunnels. The black and white turns into a tint of blue as it shows Berton and his son in the back seat of the vehicle in deep thought as they are leaving the city and heading back to their home town.
Before departing Earth for Solaris, Kris destroys most of his personal mementos in a bonfire like his thesis and photos of his dead wife, noting the volume of keepsakes he has accumulated. In Kris's last conversation with his father they realize that his father will not live to see Kris return. Although Kris readily accepted the mission, it is a choice of never seeing his father again that weighs heavily upon Kelvin's conscience as his aunt is in the background crying before her nephew's departure.
The next scene abruptly appears in deep space as you overhear a recording voice say, "Ready Kevin. Don't worry about a thing. Have a great trip. Send our regards...You're already flying, Kris! Take care." While Kris finally approaches the Solaris space station you overhear Kris announce: "Solaris station! Do something! I'm losing Stability. This is Kelvin, over..." Kris finally arrives safely on Solaris which is completely surrounded by an ocean of water. When Kris finally arrives on the landing field he yells, "Hey, where is everyone! You got guests."
When entering the space station, he notices that most of the space station seems abandoned and empty while Kris searches for Dr. Snaut. A ball rolls down the hallway and when Kris finally sees Dr. Snaut inside his room Kris walks in introducing himself. Kris notices that Dr. Snaut is shocked on his arrival and didn't expect him even though Kris sent the crew a telegram on his upcoming arrival. Dr. Snaut seems to be acting very nervous and peculiar.
Kris asks where Gibarian and Sartorius are and Dr. Snaut says, "Sartovius is in his quarters. Gibarian is dead. Suicide." Kris is shocked because he knew Gibarian and he wouldn’t believe that Gibarian would have ever gone through with something like that. Snaut tells him that Gibarian became depressed once the disturbances began and then directs Kris to pick any room on the station and take a bath and rest up. Kris says to Snaut, "I understand that something extraordinary has happened and maybe..."
Kris stops as he feels someone else is in the bed behind him. Snaut tells Kris to go rest saying, "there are only three of us: you, me and Sartorius. You know us from our photographs. If you see something out of the ordinary, something besides me and Sartorius, try not to lose your head." Kris asks Snaut what sort of things would he see and Snaut says, "I don't know. That sort of depends on you." Kris asks if they would be hallucinations and Snaut says, "No. Just remember...That we're not on earth." Before Snaut shuts his bedroom door Kris sees the head and ear of a child in Snaut's bed.
Kris finds a spare room and decides to start moving his things in and then goes off to snoop in Gibarian's room. He opens the door and it reveals a room that is a complete mess and Kris finds a gun, an envelope and video tape all addressed to him. Kris decides to play the tape as it reveals Gibarian: "Hi, Kris. I still have a little time left. There are some things I must tell you and some things I must warn you about. By now you're at the station and know what happened to me. If not, Snaut or Sartorius will tell you. What happened to me...is not important. Or rather, it cannot be explained. I'm afraid that what happened to me is only the beginning. I wouldn't of course, want it to happen...but this could happen to you and the others. Here, it could probably happen to anyone. Just don't think that I've lost my mind. I'm telling you this so that if it does happen to you you'll know it's not madness. As for continuing research, I’m leaning towards Sartorius proposal, subjecting the Ocean's plasma to heavy radiation. I know it's prohibited but there's no other choice. This is our only chance to make contact with this monster."
Kris hear's something and quickly turns off the video and when he realizes someone or something is trying to get into the room he quickly rushes over and shuts the door. Before he leaves he takes Gibarian's gun and the tape and goes to find Dr. Sartorius. When arriving to Sartorius's room Sartorius ignores him and seems to not want to answer him or give Kris any information until Kris angrily threatens to break down the door.
Dr. Sartorius finally opens up and comes out and Kris tells him he knows about the death of Gibarian. Sartorius seems to be rude, unhelpful, and give contradicting and confusing information to Kris; also rudely calling Gibarian a coward for ending his life saying, "We all die. But he insisted on being buried on Earth. Is space really such a bad grave for him? But Gibarian wanted to be in the ground, with the worms. I wanted to disregard it but Snaut insisted." Kris says that's there is no point of talking bad about Gibarian now and Sartorius says, "It’s at least worth talking about duty. To truth." Kris doesn't like Sartorius's cold and cruel outlook on his own peers and Kris shouts, "your position is absurd. Your so-called courage is inhuman! You hear me?"
Suddenly a child like dwarf runs out of Sartorius's room and Sartorius quickly picks him up and puts him back in the room shouting at Kris, “Go away. You're too impressionable. You must get used to everything. Good day." While Kris sends news of the chaos on board the station, the oceans of Solaris begin swirling on the planet's surface. He also starts to see other people aboard a ship, for instance a girl walks past him and down the corridors into another room. Kris follows her which leads into a freezer for Kris to discover the body of Gibarian wrapped up on a medical table.
Kris returns to Snaut's room telling him how he believes Sartorius is a rotten individual but Snaut says that Sartorius is a brilliant scientist. Kris isn't feeling very good and he asks Snaut if there is anyone besides the three of them on the station. Snaut asks Kris if he has seen anything and Kris tells him he saw a child asking if this child could be touched or wounded. Suddenly Kris sees the girl again outside in the corridor and when Snaut won't give Kris any answers to his questions Kris realizes it is because Snaut is afraid of something. That evening Kris goes to his room and continues the video tape that Gibarian left for him: "They won't understand me. They think I've gone crazy."
Kris then notices on the tape a little girl who appears to be behind Gibarian while Gibarian is making this last recording. Kris realizes the girl is the same little girl that he's been seeing walking around the space station earlier that day: "Do you see, Kris, how it's not entirely absurd? I have to do this because I'm afraid they'll come in here. I mean Snaut and Sartorius. They themselves don't understand what they're doing. I'm afraid, Kris. Nobody will be able to understand. They want to help me." Suddenly in the video Kris overhears Snaut and Sartorius pounding on Gibarian's door to let them in. "Kris, understand that this is not madness. It has something to do with conscience. I really wanted you to get here in time, Kris." The video shuts off and Kris is left wondering what exactly is happening on Solaris.
That evening in a blue like tint Kris is in his room holding Gibarian's gun as he lays down into bed and dozes off while the tint suddenly becomes black and white. Waking exhausted from a restless sleep, Kris finds a woman with him in his quarters despite the barricaded door. To his surprise, it is Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), his late wife who committed suicide some years before. However, she is unaware of having committed suicide on Earth, and she is equally puzzled as to her sudden presence in Kris's room. Kris gets up and is shocked beyond believe saying, "but...but it's not...How did you know where I...?
Hari asks him what does he mean by 'how'. He sees Gibarian's gun by her feet and he tries to snatch it way but Hari jumps up saying he tickled her. When Hari sees a picture of herself she asks Kris if this is her. "You know...I have the feeling...as if I forgotten something..." she says.”I can't understand it. Do you love me?" Kris tells Hari not to be silly with that question and he quickly has her change her clothes into appropriate space gear. He notices a needle mark on her arm which was the mark of the needle she used to kill herself years ago; which greatly bothers Kris.
Part Two: Grasping that Hari is merely a psychological construct brought on by the mysterious effects of Solaris; Kris lures her to a spacecraft and launches the illusion of his wife into outer space. In his haste to be rid of her, he is burned by the rocket’s blast and heads back to his room. Snaut comes in and asks Kris if he had guests when seeing the burn marks on his arms. Snaut says, "Well, I see you took good care of them."
Snaut offers to help tend to Kris's burn wounds and asks Kris who it was that he shot out of the shuttle and Kris tells him that she was a woman named Hari who had died ten years ago. Snaut says, "What you saw was the materialization of your conception of her. Everything began after we started experimenting with radiation. We hit the Ocean's surface with strong X-ray beams. Incidentally, consider yourself lucky. After all, she's a part of your past. What if it had been something you had never seen before, but something you had thought or imagined?
Evidently the Ocean responded to our heavy radiation with something else. It probed our minds and extracted something like islands of memory." Kris asks Snaut if she will come back and Snaut says, "She will...and she won't. Hari the Second. There may be an endless number of them." Kris asked why he wasn't warned of all of this and Snaut says because he wouldn't have believed him. Kris says, "There’s talk about liquidating the station. That's why I was sent here. If I submit a report, will you sign it?" Snaut asks, "And what if we suddenly make that long-awaited contact?"
That evening while asleep in his bed Kris thinks Snaut is inside his room but he realizes it is Hari 2. "It's so dark" Hari 2 says now calm and Kris invites her to come to bed with him and Kris embraces Hari throughout the night. Early the next morning, Kelvin causes Hari 2 to panic when she discovers the clothes of the first Hari apparition and Kris doesn't seem to be in the room. She becomes hysterical and tries to leave the room breaking her way through the room’s metal door, severely cutting herself. Kelvin carries her back to his bed, where her injuries heal before his very eyes. "When I saw you weren't there, I got scared," Hari 2 said.
Kris gets a phone call in his room from Snout inviting him to come to the laboratory with Sartorius. Hari 2 starts to cry wondering what is wrong with her, thinking it might be epilepsy but Kris consoles her and brings her along for the meeting. When Kris and Hari arrive together at the laboratory Kris introduces Hari 2 as his wife to Dr. Snaut and Dr. Sartorius. Sartorius found out more information about their 'guests' saying, "while our structure is made of atoms, theirs consists of neutrinos. They seem to be stabilized by Solaris' force field. You've got a superb specimen." Kris gets offended by Sartorius's remark towards his so called wife saying, "That's my wife."
Sartorius then asks Kris if he is qualified to perform an autopsy on his wife Hari 2 saying, "I think these experiments are more humane than testing on rabbits. Don't you agree?" Kris says he wouldn't know because it would be like cutting his own leg off. Kris then asks Hari 2 if she felt pain breaking though the metal door. Hari 2 says that she did and Sartorius tells Kris that as meaningless as it is he managed to establish emotional contact with 'them' but Kris just believes Sartorius is jealous because Sartorius cannot develop those feelings. Hari 2 and Kris head back to his room and watch childhood videos of Kris that his father shot when he was younger.
Kris follows Hari 2 in the bathroom as she deeply stares at herself in the mirror and says she hardly knows herself at all saying, "When I close my eyes, I can't recall my face. And you? Do you know yourself?" Kris says, "Like all humans." Snaut comes in to Kris's room in the early morning to talk with him. He tells Kris that Sartorius and him were talking things over saying, "If the Ocean derives guests from us while we dream, maybe it makes sense to transmit our waking thoughts to it. With beams of radiation. Perhaps it will understand and spare us from all these apparitions." Kris says, "Again these ridiculous X-ray sermons about the greatness of science?" Snaut says, "We’ll modulate the beam with the brain waves of one of us."
Kris knows that they would want to use him for the experiment using an encephalogram, a transcription of all of his thoughts, as he says to Snaut, "What if I suddenly want her to die? To disappear!" Hari 2 slowly wakes up and overhears their conversation from the bedroom. Snaut tells Kris they're running out of time and that Sartorius has proposed another project called the Annihilator which is self-destruction of the neutrino systems. That evening Kris is resting and when waking up he finds Hari 2 staring at him and she tells him that they have to talk. She says, "You don't love me. You understand that I don't know where I came from. You don't want to tell me. You're afraid. Then I'll tell you. I'm not Hari. Hari is dead. She poisoned herself. I'm somebody else."
Hari 2 tells Kris that she was told about everything from Sartorius earlier that day and that the original Hari had committed suicide ten years earlier, which forces Kris to now be completely honest and to tell her the entire story. Hari 2 says, "You know, it feels like somebody is tricking us. And the longer this fog lasts, the worse it will be for you in the end. Tell me. And her, the other one, what happened to her?"
Kris lays back and reveals to Hari 2 the story of his real wife saying, "We argued. Toward the end, we argued a lot. I gathered my things and left. She made me understand without saying it directly, but when you live with someone for a long time, such things aren't necessary. I was sure they were just words, but then I remembered that I'd left the laboratory specimens in the refrigerator. I had brought them from the laboratory and explained how they worked. I got scared. I wanted to go to her. But then I thought it would look like I had taken her words seriously. After three days, I couldn't take it anymore and I went to see her. When I got there she was already dead. There was a needle mark on her arm." Hari 2 looks at the needle mark on her arm and then asks why his wife did it. Kris said it was probably because she sensed he didn't really love her anymore; but now after meeting Hari 2, he now loves Hari or the idea of Hari once again. Hari says she loves Kris as well and he tells her to relax and get some sleep.
That next day Kris and Hari 2 arrive to the library for Snaut's birthday party. When Snaut finally arrives he comes already drunk and when Sartorius makes a toast to him and science Snaut drunkenly says, "Science? Nonsense. In this situation, mediocrity and genius are equally useless. We have no interest in conquering any cosmos. We want to extend the Earth to the borders of the cosmos. We don't know what to do with other worlds. We don't need other worlds. We need a mirror. We struggle for contact, but we'll never find it. We're in the foolish human predicament of striving for a goal that he fears, that he has no need for. Man needs man. But let’s drink to Gibarian. To his memory. Even though he got frightened."
Kris doesn't believe Gibarian died of fear but of hopelessness, probably thinking all of these hallucinations were only happening to him. Sartorius doesn't agree and rudely says to Kris, "Permit me to ask my esteemed colleague: Why have you come to Solaris? Why are you working a lot? Forgive me, but aside from the romance with your ex-wife, nothing seems to interest you. You've lost touch with reality. Forgive me, but you're simply a loafer."
Hari 2 sticks up for Kris saying, "I think that Kris Kelvin is more consistent than the both of you. In inhuman conditions, he has behaved humanely. And you act as if none of this concerns you, and consider your 'guests'...it seems that's what you call us...something external, a hindrance. But it's a part of you. It's your conscience. And Kris loves me. Maybe it's not me he loves. But he's simply protecting himself. He wants me alive." Sartorius interrupts and says, "You’re not a woman and you're not a human being. Understand that, if you're capable of understanding anything. There is no Hari. She's dead. You're just a reproduction, a mechanical reproduction. A copy. A matrix." Hari 2 says, "Yes...maybe...but...I am becoming a human being."
Hari 2 mentions how little by little she is slowly becoming more human and also becoming more independent realizing it is becoming easier for her to exist beyond Kris’s sight. Hari can no longer take Sartorius's abuse and she starts to cry and says, "You're so cruel." That evening after Sartorius goes to bed a very drunk Snaut gets walked to his room by Kris and when Kris realizes he left Hari alone in the library he quickly leaves but not before Snaut informs him that at 5 am there will be 30 seconds of weightlessness. Kris quickly runs back for Hari 2 and when he arrives back at the library he sees Hari 2 lost in thought admiring a large painting on the wall; as the film flashes back to Kris's childhood videos that she watched earlier with him.
Suddenly the 30 second of weightlessness occurs as objects like books and candles in the library start to weightlessly float along side Kris and Hari as they both float weightily in the air. After this operatic and beautiful moment the scene comes to an abrupt stop as a bottle of liquid oxygen smashes on the ground as you watch Hari fall to the ground after purposely digesting it to kill herself. Snaut hears the noise and comes out of his room seeing Kris on the floor next to Hari 2's dying side.
Snaut tells Kris it's only going to get worse because the more Hari 2 is with him, the more human she will become. As Hari 2 lies there dead Snaut asks Kris what he's going to do when she comes back again saying, "What do you intend to do? Leave the station? Kris, she can only live here, on the station. You know that." Kris ignores what Snaut is saying and says how he loves her and Snaut says, "Which one? Her or the one in the rocket? You can pull her in from space. She will appear again and she'll keep appearing. Don't turn a scientific problem into a common love story."
Suddenly, in a ghastly and disturbing scene Hari 3 spasmodically resurrects a few minutes later gasping for breath as Snaut walks away saying, "I can never get used to all these resurrections." While Kris is holding onto Hari 3 she is going through excruciating pain and anguish and when she sees herself for what she really is she is is disgusted by it all. Kris says, "Maybe your appearance is supposed to be torture. Maybe it's a favor from the Ocean. What does it matter when you're worth more to me than any science could ever be?" On the surface of Solaris, the ocean is moving even faster which is greatly worrying Snaut and Sartorius.
Kris takes Hari 3 back to their room and they console each other in bed as Kris tells Hari 3, "I ain't going back to Earth. I'll live here with you on the station." In a fevered sleep that evening, Kris suffers from several surreal like visions of him walking down the corridors of the space station. He has visions of speaking to Snaut, visions of speaking to his dead mother and visions of several different Hari's walking about his quarters; as the tone of the picture changes from black and white, to color and to blue tint.
Near the end of the film Kris wakes up after his fever and realizes Hari 3 had left him. Snaut gives him a goodbye letter that Hari 3 wrote for him and Snaut is asked to read it to him. "Kris, it's terrible that I had to deceive you but there was no other way. This is best for the both of us. I asked them myself. You mustn't blame anyone. Hari." Kris asks Snaut how she went and Snaut tells him they used the Annihilator which was a burst of light and wind. Snaut then informs Kris that since they transmitted Kris's encephalogram none of the guests have come back and that something incomprehensible is starting to take place in the Ocean, in which islands have begun to form on the surface.
In the library, Kris asks Snaut if being on the space station for so many years has lost his connection to life back on Earth. Snaut says, "It's a banal question. When man is happy, the meaning of life and other eternal themes rarely interest him. These questions should be asked at the end of one's life." Kris says, "To ask is always the desire to know. Yet the preservation of simple truths requires mystery. The mysteries of happiness, death and love. Fine then. In any event, my mission is finished. But what next? Return to earth? Little by little everything will return to normal. I'll even find new interests and acquaintances. But I won't be able to give myself to them fully. Never. Do I have the right to turn down even an imagined possibility of contact with this Ocean which my race has been trying to understand for decades? Should I remain here? Among things and objects we both touched? Which still bear the memory of our breath? What for? In the hope that she'll return? But I don't harbor this hope. The only thing left for me is to wait. I don't know what for. New miracles?"
The last scene of the film is Kris back on Earth and again at the shore of the frozen lake on his father's property. His father's dog runs to him, and Kris happily walks towards his father's house. Suddenly Kris realizes something is wrong when he looks into the window of his father’s house and notices water is falling inside the home. The water is also pouring on top of his father who is inside but his father seems unnoticed by all this, as his father walks outside of the house to reunite his returning son. Father and son finally embrace on the front step of the lakeside as Kris collapses at his father's feet as the camera pans away to slowly reveal that the two of them are actually on an island in the middle of an ocean on Solaris.
In 1968, director Andrei Tarkovsky had two motives for cinematically adapting the Polish science fiction novel Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. Firstly, he admired Lem's work. Secondly, he needed work and money, because his previous film, Andrei Rublev had gone unreleased, and his screenplay, A White, White Day, had been rejected, yet it later was realized as The Mirror in 1975. A film of a novel by Stanislaw Lem, a popular and critically respected writer in the USSR, was a logical commercial and artistic choice. Tarkovsky and Lem collaborated, and remained in communication about the cinematic adaptation of the novel Solaris.
With Fridrikh Gorenshtein, Tarkovsky co-wrote the first screenplay in the summer of 1969, two-thirds concerned the Earth marital history of Kris and Hari; and Lem and the Mosfilm committee disliked it. The final screenplay, yielding the shooting script, has little action on Earth, and Kelvin’s marriage to his second wife, Maria, was deleted from the story. In the literary Solaris, Stanislaw Lem describes human science's inability to handle an alien life form, because extra-terrestrial life is beyond human understanding; in the cinematic Solaris, Tarkovsky concentrates upon Kris's feelings for his wife, Hari, and the impact of outer space exploration upon the human condition. Dr. Gibarian’s monologue from the novel’s sixth chapter is the highlight of the final library scene, wherein Snaut says, “We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors”.
Unlike the novel, which begins with psychologist Kris Kelvin's spaceflight, and occurs entirely on Solaris, the film shows Kelvin’s visit to the house of his fathers, in the country, before leaving Earth for Solaris; the contrast establishes the worlds in which he lives. Warm Earth versus a cold space station orbiting the planet Solaris showing and questioning space exploration’s impact upon the human psyche. The set design of Solaris features paintings by the Old Masters. The interior of the space station is decorated with full reproductions of the 1565 painting cycle of The Months (The Hunters in the Snow, The Gloomy Day, The Hay Harvest, The Harvesters, and The Return of the Herd), by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and details of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus and The Hunters in the Snow. The scenes of Kris kneeling before his father, and the father embracing him allude to The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt.
The references and allusions are Tarkovsky’s efforts to give the young art of cinema an historic perspective of centuries, to evoke the viewer’s feeling that cinema is a mature art. Initially, Tarkovsky wanted his ex-wife, Irma Raush, as Hari, however, after meeting Swedish actress Bibi Andersson in June 1970, he considered her for the role. Wishing to work with Tarkovsky, Andersson accepted her salary in rubles. In the end, Natalya Bondarchuk was cast as Hari. Tarkovsky had met her when they were students at the State Institute of Cinematography; and she had introduced Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem, to him. Tarkovsky auditioned her in 1970, but did not cast her for being too young, and, instead, recommended her to director Larisa Shepitko, who cast her in You and I.
Half-a-year later, Tarkovsky saw that film, and decided to cast Natalya Bondarchuk as Hari. In the summer of 1970, the State Committee for Cinematography authorized the production of Solaris, with a length of 4,000 metres (13,123 ft), equivalent to a two-hour-twenty-minute running time. The exteriors were photographed at Zvenigorod, near Moscow; the interiors were photographed at the Mosfilm studios. The scenes of space pilot Berton driving through a city freeway were photographed in Japan, in September and October 1971, at Akasaka and Iikura in Tokyo. The shooting began in March 1971, by cinematographer Vadim Yusov, who also photographed Tarkovky’s previous films and the two frequently quarreled to the degree of afterwards not working together again.
The first version of Solaris was completed in December 1971. The Earth, the sensual source of life, and the sterile space station orbiting the planet Solaris, are contrasted with lively images of underwater plants, fire, snow, rain and other natural phenomena. A similar contrast appears at the story’s end, on Solaris, juxtaposing Kris’s winter visit to his father’s house, featuring a frozen pond, surrounded by bare trees, but not covered with snow. The dead scenery contrasts with the earlier, summer pond scenes of underwater plants floating in the water current, and blooming trees.
The Solaris ocean was created with acetone, aluminum powder, and dyes. Mikhail Romadin designed the space station as old and decrepit, rather than futuristic. The designer and director consulted with scientist and aerospace engineer Lupichev, who lent them a mainframe computer for set decoration. For some of the sequences, Romadin designed a mirror room, which enabled the cameraman, Yusov, to hide within a mirrored sphere so as to not be seen. Legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, who was visiting the Mosfilm studios, expressed that he was impressed with the space station design.
In January 1972 the State Committee for Cinematography requested editorial changes before releasing Solaris, such as a more realistic film with a clearer image of the future, and deletion of allusions to God and Christianity and Tarkovsky successfully resisted such major changes; yet after some minor edits, Solaris was finally approved for release in March 1972. The soundtrack of Solaris features the chorale prelude for organ, Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639), by Johann Sebastian Bach, and an electronic score by Eduard Artemyev. The prelude is the central musical theme of Solaris. Tarkovsky, initially, wanted a musicless film, and asked composer Artemyev to orchestrate the ambient sounds as a musical score. The latter proposed subtly introducing orchestral music. In counterpoint to the classical music Earth theme, is the fluid electronic music theme for the planet Solaris.
The character of Hari has her own subtheme, a cantus firmus based upon J. S. Bach’s music featuring Artemyev’s composition atop it; it is heard at Hari’s death and at the story’s end. Solaris premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. In the USSR, the film premiered in the Mir film theater in Moscow on 5 February 1973. Despite the film's narrow release in only five film theaters in the USSR, the film nevertheless sold 10.5 million tickets. Unlike the vast majority of commercial and ideological films in the 1970s, Solaris was screened in the USSR in limited copies for 15 years without any break, giving it cult status.
In the United States, a version of Solaris that was truncated by 30 minutes premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on 6 October 1976. Although Stanislaw Lem worked with Tarkovsky and Fridrikh Gorenshtein in developing the screenplay, Lem maintained that he "never really liked Tarkovsky’s version” of his novel. Tarkovsky wanted a film story based on the novel but artistically independent of its origin. However, Lem opposed any divergence of the screenplay from the novel. Tarkovsky claimed that Lem did not fully appreciate cinema and that he expected the film to merely illustrate the novel without creating an original cinematic piece. Tarkovsky’s film is about the inner lives of its scientists as human beings. Lem’s novel is about the conflicts of man’s condition in nature and the nature of man in the universe.
For Tarkovsky, Lem's exposition of that existential conflict was the starting point for describing the inner lives of the characters. In the autobiographical documentary Voyage in Time Tarkovsky says he viewed Solaris as an artistic failure because his film did not transcend genre like, he believed, his film Stalker in 1979 did due to the required technological dialogue and special effects. M. Galina in the 1997 article Identifying Fears called this film "one of the biggest events in the Soviet science fiction cinema" and one of the few works that does not seem anachronistic nowadays. In 2002, American director Steven Soderbergh wrote and directed an American adaptation of Solaris, which starred George Clooney and is considered by many critics to be greatly inferior.
All throughout his film-making career, Tarkovsky, having to deal with the constant struggles with the conservative Soviet regime, could make only a handful of movies, each of which can serve to be a live thesis on spiritualism and theology. Tarkovsky also mastered the use of time and space in cinema that helped him to express what many would think would be inexpressible in film. Tarkovsky's other thought-provoking masterpieces include his war film Ivan Childhood that portrays war in the eyes of a young boy. One of my favorite films of all time was his masterpiece Andrei Rublev which is listed on my top 10 films. It tells the story of a painter in 15th century Russia who eventually loses his faith in his work. Then there is his science fiction masterpiece Stalker which tells the story of a 'stalker' a man who is paid to take a writer and professor to the center of the 'zone', which is a certain part in the wilderness where the laws of physics no longer apply, and if they survive and make it to the center can get their wishes granted. The ideas which Tarkovsky felt he couldn't fully express in Solaris are further developed in Stalker which alongside Andrei Rublev is his masterpiece. The Mirror is a dream-like film that portrays three different timelines of a person's life and Nostalghia tells the story of a Russian poet traveling through Italy. Last but not least was The Sacrifice another science fiction story about families sacrifices during the upcoming event of World War III.
Comparing Kubrick's 2001 and Tarkovsky's Solaris cannot be done because they are both separate specimens that have a unique life of their own. Both of the films narratives are done with leisurely long tracking shots that undoubtfully will test the patients of viewers. They both include superior art direction, creative and groundbreaking effects and philosophical and existential themes. The opening of 2001 and Solaris are quite similar in which they both project a simple, archaic and untechnological world. For instance, in 2001 Kubrick opens the film with The Dawn of Man sequence in which a pack of early hominids are foraging for food in the African desert. In the opening of Solaris, Tarkovsky projects a natural world of underwater reeds, a horse galloping in the open country, and a farm dog. Also like both films Solaris will later suddenly jump ahead to a futuristic world surrounded by TV's, rockets and technological machinery.
Solaris is much more of a depressing film then 2001 as it surrounds it's character's of grief and loss; especially in it's opening shot in which you find Kris staring at underwater reeds which remind you of a woman's tresses; which symbolizes a drowning like death of his deceased wife. Similar to the way Jean-Luc Godard constructed Alphaville, Tarkovsky creates a futuristic world with contemporary cars, clothes and buildings; because what is the point of trying to make the world futuristic if the future in many ways is already here?
What makes Solaris to me a truly excruciating film experience is the idea of having someone you truly love continuously in pain, dying in different horrific ways and being resurrected once again. This theme of love, grief and the obsession of holding on to a love no matter how artificial that love can be reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo which also involved a death, a resurrection, past mistakes and several different identities on who this person really was. Like Mitzoguchi's supernatural classic Ugetsu, Solaris is like a simple ghost story, where the protagonist is doing his best to hold on to something that he loves but there is nothing left to hold on to.
What themes I find fascinating and quite powerful is that Hari has intelligence, a conscious, and a memory and is able to learn and grow as a being. She doesn't remember the real Hari that killed herself but she is willing to dependently become her own person. Also like Hitchcock's Vertigo the real power of the film comes from Kris's awakened love for Hari which makes us question the roots of love and how we can distinguish between love for an individual person or love for the memories and idea of person who either doesn't exist or is no longer there. Does Kris truly love the new Hari for herself or is he merely loving her because it brings back the past memories of his dead wife; which he now feels he can be given a second chance to make things right again.
Even though people exist in physical space, our entire relationship and feelings of love for that person stems from how we perceive them in our minds. When we touch or kiss a person it isn't necessary the feel of the touch or the kiss that is exhilarating but the consciousness on the way we perceive that touch or kiss. How can anyone define what exactly is real or not when everything in the end originates to the electrical signals that get interpreted through our brains?When watching Tarkovsky's films there's always something to think about afterwards and I believe Andrei Rublev, Stalker, Solaris and Mirrors are his masterpieces. Whenever, I describe a Tarkovsky film I describe it simply as 'meditative cinema.' Tarkovsky’s Cinema like Russian Literature has a close association with poetry. In fact, the best way to describe his films are... as poetry. Tarkovsky’s ability to create beautiful composition shots with gorgeous landscapes of nature and philosophical discussions on the existence of man brings a meditative dimension to his style of filmmaking. His use of continuous long shots and slow camera movements are a way for the audience to inhabit Tarkovsky's world of deep meditation; similar to the works of Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson. Tarkovsky once replied, “I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.” Solaris is considered one of Tarkovsky's greatest achievements and one of the most powerful science fiction films ever made. Salman Rushdie calls Solaris, "a sci-fi masterpiece", and has urged that "This exploration of the unreliability of reality and the power of the human unconscious, this great examination of the limits of rationalism and the perverse power of even the most ill-fated love, needs to be seen as widely as possible before it's transformed by Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron into what they ludicrously threaten will be '2001 meets Last Tango in Paris.' What, sex in space with floating butter? Tarkovsky must be turning over in his grave." Critic N. Medlicott writes, "The arc of discovery is on the part of the audience, not the characters. That they may be trapped within a box of consciousness that deceives them about reality is only appropriate, since the film argues that we all are." A list of The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema compiled by Empire magazine in 2010 ranked Tarkovsky's Solaris at #68 and was also listed on film critic Roger Ebert's 'Great Movies' list. I find it interesting that Tarkovsky was ordered to remove the concept of God in the story of Solaris. Instead Tarkovsky found a way to work around it and took the standard themes of science-fiction with its story of astronauts making contact with other forms of intelligence, and created it as a form of Contact of Divinity with Solaris's Ocean powers. One of the most spiritual and poignant moments of the film is when the space station enters a stage of zero gravity and Kris and Hari float in the air along with lighted candles. Like most of Tarkovsky’s work, Solaris delves upon several themes dealing with Philosophy, Metaphysics, Existentialism, Spirituality and most importantly the human consciousness. The last sequence of the film has us reconsider Kris's memories and consciousness as it clearly shows that Solaris has replicated an Earth like environment from Kris's memories of Earth. Kris actually did not return to Earth like we thought he did and instead consciously created an island in the Solarian area. I believe Kris came to the realization that there was no more purpose for him to return to Earth because his father would have been deceased, so why not create a fabrication of it using the atmosphere of Solaris's radioactive current as a way for him and his father to finally reconcile like they originally wanted to. Whether or not he decides to bring back Hari is unanswered but I wouldn't be surprised if he did since this could give Kris the chance to finally start over again with both his father and his wife in a world which even though is fabricated will fulfill and satisfy Kelvin's obsessions and regrets just the same.